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Chapter One: The Perfect Storm
It was a postcard-perfect Monday afternoon in North Carolina on March 13, 2006. A brilliant sun was accompanied by temperatures in the midseventies. The campus of Duke University was peaceful and relatively empty with the arrival of spring break. Dukies, with the exception of athletic teams in season such as men's lacrosse, welcomed the reprieve. The city of Durham, meanwhile, embraced a new work week. Durhamites savored the crisp, clean air as they scurried around town and tackled their to-do lists. Little did they know the perfect storm had started to churn on the horizon.
The Perfect Storm?
Yes, that's exactly what would occur. Not a drop of rain would fall in Durham over the next twelve hours, but an extraordinary combination of events would devastate a prestigious university and a proud city, changing many lives forever. Not rain, not snow, not wind would cause this massive destruction.
The elements that produced this perfect storm were in a powder keg, just waiting to be ignited. That powder keg, located in the living room at 610 North Buchanan Boulevard, was packed with the politics of privilege, race, sex, and money. As the alcohol flowed, and music filled the air, the fuse was lit.
There was an explosion aroundmidnight.
Duke University, ranked as the thirteenth "Best University in the World" in 2006 by the New York Times Higher Education Supplement, is extraordinarily picturesque. Grand Gothic buildings covered in warm, gold-toned brick stand high above the magnolia and dogwood trees that fill the campus. An aura of privilege and excellence surround the thousands of eager, bright students who pay an annual tuition in excess of forty-four thousand dollars and rush to keep pace with their demanding academic and social schedules. However, the university's beautiful exterior couldn't conceal the turmoil beneath.
People love to hate Duke. Though no one can pinpoint exactly why, everyone has a theory. John Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, believes it stems from the school's reputation. Once the darling underdog, Duke is now viewed as a powerful elitist. Its attitude, intellect, and wealth set an exclusive standard, similar to the success exhibited by professional baseball's New York Yankees. Most of the Ivy League despise the thought that Duke is trying to be something it's not: one of them. In the Ivies' minds, Duke is a poser, striving to emulate an image Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Stanford, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania spent centuries developing.
"I really believe that if this had occurred almost anywhere else in the country, it wouldn't have been this big," Burness said. "It would have been big, but nowhere as big as Duke. We are on a pedestal. I think the factor that put this one over the top, with all the other elements -- and God, it had all the other elements -- was that this was Duke."
Those "other elements":
The perfect storm.
On the afternoon of March 13, Duke's nationally ranked lacrosse team searched for ways to escape the spring-break boredom. Golf was a popular option. Many other guys spent the afternoon at 610 North Buchanan Boulevard, drinking beer, talking about women, and playing an outdoor game called washers. In this version, players tossed small washers underhand through holes cut into wooden panes the size of doors on the ground five feet away. When conversation turned to the night's entertainment, faces lit up. A few years ago the team unveiled a tradition of meeting at Teasers Men's Club one night during spring break. However, players had run into a problem that threatened the fun at this local strip club: Some of their underage teammates were carded and denied entry in 2005. In what they thought was a stroke of genius, the players decided to bring the strip club to them. "The reality is that every guy that we know in every fraternity and on every sports team had had strippers to their house," one player said. "We thought, 'What's the downside?' We could control what we got. The thinking was we needed to control the atmosphere."
The elements began to spin.
In this age of instant access, there's no need to flip through Durham's 151-page telephone book to find live entertainment. The Internet was easier. Only a few keystrokes were needed to find escort services and dancers on yellowpages.com. Among the first to pop up: Allure Escort Services. No one knew, when one of the team's four lacrosse captains, Dan Flannery, made the call, using the name Dan Flannigan, that his afternoon call would ring in the ghetto of East Durham. "The address is actually an out-of-service gas station on some random street," senior lacrosse captain Matt Zash recalls. "It's just a front. It doesn't even exist. It's just someone with a cell phone that has a network of girls that he can call up."
After first dialing a number that was out of order, Flannery punched in the telephone number for Allure Escort Services in his cellular phone at 2:00 P.M. He had a connection. A ring followed. Flannery explained he was looking for entertainment for a party.
"What do you want?" the woman from Allure Escort Services asked.
"What do you mean?" Flannery replied, unsure of striptease etiquette in his first call for such a request.
"How many girls do you need?" she responded, impatiently.
"I need two for this party, possibly twenty or thirty guys," Flannery answered.
The woman said it wasn't a problem and she would call Flannery back in ten minutes to tell him what she had available for the party that night. As scheduled, Flannery's cell phone rang. It was the woman from Allure Escort Services.
"I've got two girls that would be perfect for a group like yours," said the woman, who recited their measurements and added they were comfortable dancing at parties of this size.
"One is Hispanic and one has brown hair with blond highlights."
That's fine, Flannery thought.
Visions of two beautiful, curvy, tanned girls dancing sensually with vertical poles, moving their bodies to the beat of the music, filled the players' minds. The seniors were so convinced that attractive women were due to arrive that they assigned freshmen the chore of cleaning up the living room -- running the vacuum, taking out trash, straightening up the furniture -- so as not to offend their guests. Some of the older players had been to off-campus parties with strippers, saying the scene had been fun and appropriate. Many others had never seen strippers at all, much less up close and personal. Though some in the group were apprehensive about the late-night show, the wheels were in motion. The party was set. The strippers were to come to a house just off the edge of Duke's East Campus, a house that served as the de facto gathering place for the fraternity that was Duke lacrosse: 610 North Buchanan Boulevard.
Underage drinking had once been an extracurricular activity the Duke administration treated with a wink and smile. But several years ago, then Duke President Nannerl Keohane issued an edict that no alcohol could be consumed on East Campus by students. Keg parties were allowed on West Campus, where older students lived, but revelers had to buy the keg from university catering (Keohane jacked up keg prices to make it less appealing), and the beer had to be served by campus bartenders (even more expensive) who checked everyone's IDs, effectively making drinking on-campus so unappealing to most students that all parties were moved to neighborhoods on the edge of campus. It was a decision Keohane felt was necessary to prove that Duke was not deserving of its growing "party school" reputation. (So well known was Duke's "work hard, play hard" student motto that novelist Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons is set in an oversexed, alcohol-crazed parody of Duke named Dupont University.) The unintended consequence was that the off-campus parties further strained the relationship between Duke students and residents of the surrounding community.
Trinity Park is a neighborhood "where people walk their dogs and children play outside," Samiha Khanna, a writer for the Raleigh, North Carolina, newspaper News & Observer, told North Carolina Public Radio. "It's a great friendly neighborhood and everybody knows each other." Blue houses, yellow houses, white houses, and brick houses with sprawling front porches line streets that are separated from Duke's East Campus by a three-foot-high stone wall. When Keohane's policy of non-campus drinking went into effect, however, this wall suddenly divided neighborhood from university. Seniors from the school's fraternities and athletic teams, as well as other senior students, began renting homes in Trinity Park. Those homes would become the unofficial gathering spots for members of their groups.
The lacrosse team was just one of several groups that had moved its rowdiness and late-night parties off-campus. The white clapboard house at 610 North Buchanan, rented by senior captains Zash, Flannery, and David Evans, became popular with teammates and friends. Though they never threw parties with baby oil wrestling pits and dozens of kegs like some of their student neighbors, their home became the site of many "late nights," Zash admitted with a grin. Players from New York and New Jersey, such as Zash and many of his teammates, were accustomed to clubs and bars that kept music thumping and alcohol flowing well into the wee morning hours. When curfew struck at 2:00 A.M. in Durham, laxers (slang for lacrosse players) and friends knew where to head: 610.
An increasing number of neighbors grew tired of loud music in the middle of the night and the sight of empty beer cans strewn in their yards after the get-togethers. Jason Bissey was one of those Trinity Park residents. His complaints about the players, largely ignored before that night, would become significant.
After a quick visit to his home in Long Island, New York, freshman Devon Sherwood landed in Durham and caught a ride from a friend back to his dormitory on East Campus. Although a walk-on and the team's only African-American player, Sherwood was part of the tight-knit lacrosse team.
"It's like, once you earn the respect, you are part of the family," Sherwood said.
After ten that night, Sherwood's telephone rang and a teammate let him know there was a party at 610. Though the party had already started, he was in for a surprise.
The two strippers were scheduled to arrive at 11:00 P.M. The clock read 11:15 and only one woman, Kim, had shown, parking her black Honda Accord on the street in front of the house. Kim was in her early thirties, with chocolate skin and wavy hair. She wore tight blue jeans and a long-sleeved dress shirt. Kim had a pretty face, but an alternative lifestyle and pregnancy had aged her beyond her years. Though Kim was fully clothed, her stomach sagged under the weight of cellulite and her breasts fell deflated on her chest. A captain and another player met Kim on the back stoop. They talked about school and Kim smoked a cigarette while they waited for the other dancer to arrive. The player offered Kim a drink, and Kim responded "please." The player excused himself to fix the drink and, more important, alert the crowd inside the house of an important detail.
The player told his teammates that Kim, an African-American, was not what was promised by the agency. Most of the guys just shrugged, saying that was okay, and continued drinking beer from red plastic cups. The marathon party was prepared for its featured act. The carpeted living room had been turned into a makeshift dance floor. The furniture was pushed against the walls. Music played from an iPod hooked to portable speakers. Players had chipped in twenty to forty dollars each to cover the eight-hundred-dollar fee for the two dancers. "It was fine and great," recalled Tony McDevitt, who had arrived around 9:00 P.M. "Everybody was having a good time and it was under control. It wasn't loud or anything. People weren't like crazy drunk, people weren't breaking things."
Still, everyone started to get anxious when the second stripper hadn't arrived by eleven-thirty. She was thirty minutes late, so Kim telephoned her contact, Melissa, from the escort agency. Melissa informed Kim that the second dancer was on her way and should arrive soon.
Fifteen minutes later at eleven forty-five, Crystal Gail Mangum was dropped off by her friend Brian Taylor, who quickly left in his dark sedan. Unlike Kim, Crystal was dressed in uniform, ready to perform: a short, red, lace and glitter negligee and shiny white, patent-leather platform shoes. Crystal's brown and blond extensions were pinned behind her ears to keep them from hanging in her face. Her noticeably large breasts had been enhanced through surgery. Bruises and scars covered her body. She was only twenty-seven but time and neglect had already conspired against her. A player who watched Crystal emerge from the passenger side of the car remembers, "Yeah, she didn't get out of the car the way I get out of a car normally when I'm not impaired," he said. "She didn't spring out of the car. It was kind of like a slow-moving process."
Kim said she met Crystal at the back door of 610. The women had never met before that night and worked for two different escort agencies -- Kim was with Allure Escort Services and Crystal was with Bunny Hole Entertainment. They introduced themselves to each other and began planning their performance. They entered the house and were each paid their four hundred dollars in cash in advance as agreed. At midnight, the exotic dancers emerged from the back bathroom, where Kim had changed into her outfit. They strolled down a short hallway and into the living room, where nearly thirty guys, some of whom were friends of Duke lacrosse players, waited for the show.
Kim began, shaking her hips like a pendulum to the beat of the music provided by the players. She later told police that the guys "hooted and hollered" as each of the dancers peeled off her bra. But the smiling and cheering didn't last long. Things began to get awkward when Crystal, intoxicated and on a powerful muscle relaxant, repeatedly tripped and stumbled over Kim. Kim later recalled giving her a look during the performance like, "C'mon, girl, what's going on?," but got no response.
At one point, Crystal -- barely able to stand, much less put on a show -- tumbled to the floor. While that was not a rare sight, according to Yolanda Haynes, the former manager of the Platinum Club, where Crystal frequently worked, this badly choreographed dance only aroused suspicion and disappointment among the players. With Crystal on the floor, Kim hovered over her partner and "they for some reason started mimicking oral sex," one player said. "We didn't ask them to. One girl got on top of the other one, and everyone was like...ugh."
The uninspiring performance led some, among them Devon Sherwood, to begin leaving. "They had no poles or flashing lights," he said. "They were just dancing around a group of guys on beat-up couches and carpets that probably hadn't been cleaned in ten years." Someone decided to help the dancers, asking if they had brought any sex toys.
"I'd use your dick, but it's too small," an annoyed Kim retorted.
That prompted a tragic decision. One player grabbed a brown broom handle and said, "Well, how about this?" That suggestion set the strippers on edge. A photograph snapped by a player showed an agitated Kim reacting and reaching out toward the players during the show. Kim later said the commotion had Crystal "riled up and irate," so Kim said she pulled Crystal into the nearby bathroom of the three-bedroom house and locked the door.
The five-minute striptease had ended. The show had not.
After a few minutes, one of the nervous captains became suspicious of what the women were doing in the locked bathroom, adjacent to the bedroom of one of the captains. One player said, "I didn't know what they were doing. I thought they were shooting up, doing something stupid." Desperate to regain control of the situation and get the strippers out of the bathroom, a player began to slip bills underneath the locked door.
At 12:14 A.M., Reade Seligmann, a sophomore Duke lacrosse player at the party, telephoned On Time Taxi and asked for a taxi to pick him up at the nearby corner of Watts Street and Urban Avenue. Moez Mostafa, owner of On Time Taxi, said in a sworn statement that he picked up Seligmann and another person on that street corner at twelve-nineteen, driving them directly to Wachovia Bank. The bank's security camera showed Seligmann withdrawing money from the ATM at 12:24 A.M.
Back at the house, the strippers finally emerged from the bathroom at 12:20 A.M. An incoherent Crystal followed Kim out of the back door. As they were leaving, Kim saw the player who had grabbed the broomstick and "loses her shit again," according to another player. "Kim ran to the car and I followed her," one player said. "I was apologizing to Kim and she was saying, 'It's not your fault, it's not your fault.'"
Players, who had paid the dancers for a two-hour performance, were angry about the abbreviated performance. Bissey, a next-door neighbor, reported hearing players in the alley between the two houses, saying, "I want my money back." One of the players said, "I got guys that are pissed off because they got ripped off. I know we got ripped off and I was trying to do damage control here and get these girls out of the house. But I don't want the cops to show up in the middle of this whole thing and see all of us drunk and have this girl lie and say she was threatened or felt unsafe or uncomfortable."
One player approached the driver's side of Kim's car and apologized to the women, asking them to come back into the house to collect their belongings. Crystal had left her purse in the bathroom and a shoe in the living room. "I wasn't trying to get them back in the house to dance," the player said. "I just wanted to calm them down so the cops wouldn't come. We were worried about getting cited for having guys drinking underage."
Crystal got out of the car, made her way down the alley next to the house, and stumbled up the back doorstep. She stepped in and grabbed her purse from the bathroom, which was three feet from the back door. She also grabbed Dave Evans's shaving kit. As she stepped back outside, players locked the doors and wouldn't allow her back in.
Crystal began pounding on the back door and reached into her purse to grab her phone. And, at 12:26 A.M., she made a call to Centerfold Escorts, another service with which she worked. Drunk and confused, Crystal stood at the top of the steps for a moment, trying to decide what to do. She smiled at a player who was standing in the driveway and snapping photographs. Then she lost her balance. Crystal's hands slowly reached for the iron railing, to no avail. She tumbled down, adding even more scratches and bruises to her tattered body. The fall didn't really hurt her, but embarrassment and muscle relaxants made it difficult for her to get up. She lay at the bottom of the stairs, pretending to be passed out, until one of the players left to get help from her dancing partner. "I go back and she's not moving and I am like, 'Holy shit, this girl's going to OD [overdose] on my back porch and die, and now we're really fucked,'" a player said.
Kim later said to police she told Flannery, "...If they could get her [Crystal] to my car, I would get her out of their hair." Flannery agreed, helping Crystal up and leaning her against his shoulder as he made his way to Kim's car. The player-turned-photographer, once again documenting the bizarre events, snapped a shot of a disoriented Crystal being placed into Kim's vehicle at 12:41 A.M.
As the women were preparing to drive away, one player, still upset by his monetary losses, made a comment about Kim's appearance. Kim, enraged and defensive, called him a 'little-dick white boy, who probably couldn't get it on his own and had to pay for it."
The player countered with, "Tell your grandfather I said thanks for my cotton shirt."
That was it. The elements had collided.
At 12:53 A.M., the perfect storm, involving sex, race, class, politics, and lies, was set in motion when Kim Roberts grabbed her cell phone and dialed the fateful numbers: 911.
Copyright © 2007 by Don Yaeger
Excerpted from It's Not About the Truth by Don Yaeger Copyright © 2007 by Don Yaeger. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
1 The Perfect Storm 1
2 Don't Worry, This Will Blow Over 15
3 Duke and Durham 27
4 Lacrosse at Duke 33
5 The Strippers 47
6 The Cops 55
7 I-I and Done 63
8 Blue Wall of Silence 75
9 Who Is Mike Nifong? 89
10 Press Hound 99
11 The President 107
12 Perfect Offenders, Perfect Victim 119
13 Agendas All Around 131
14 The Media 147
15 "It's Not About the Truth Anymore" 165
16 No Match 177
17 Politics of Race 183
18 All In 193
19 Crumbling Case 203
20 Summer Camp 213
21 General Election 221
22 "No Penetration" 233
23 "You Can't Make Me" 245
24 Cruelest of Ironies 259
25 Duke Lacrosse 2007 267
26 Exonerated 277
27 Moving On 285
A Timeline of Events 309
The Cast of Characters 331
Posted March 23, 2011
I read this book a number of years after the events depicted took place. I thought I knew quite a bit about the case, but I was very mistaken. The picture drawn of Duke's administration is anything but flattering. Mike Nifong engaged in an ego-driven campaign to promote himself, regardless of the merits of the case -- what a scandalously reprehensible position for a District Attorney to take. Members of the media routinely hawked opinion as fact, further stirring up a maelstrom of hostility against the Lacrosse team members. As for the Group of 88, their political agenda was exposed when they spoke out against the alleged rape of a black woman by white men, but remained stone silent in another rape case in which the alleged victim was white and the alleged perpetrators black. The anguish experienced by the three young Duke students who were indicted, Lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, and their families is heart-wrenching. While the young men have been vindicated, they will carry the scars of this episode the rest of their lives. The title sums up why Yaeger's book is a must read! Put this one in the time capsule -- future generations will find it gives a painfully accurate picture of our times.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 3, 2010
The book details how the three Duke lacrosse players were accused of rape and the fallout that followed; the season was canceled, the coach was forced to resign, why the administration tried to sweep it under the rug, and the Dean of Duke University told the coach at one of the meetings regarding the accusations "Its not about the truth" anymore.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 20, 2008
Now, I have yet to read this book but I am very excited to. I know the Finnerty Family personally and I am a huge supporter of Collin and talk very highly of him. People should read this book to discover the truth, to see what truly happened that night and to find out that some of the guys that were accused, werent even there! I really hope that they will all overcome this big catostrophe and move on to be successfull people in life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 19, 2007
To understand that this could happen in America is a frightening fact. One sick, misguided man's 'Nifong' actions nearly ruined dozens of lives, and clearly ruined the reputation of a supposed fine institution 'Duke'. The rush to judgment by the Duke administration and the media 'and unfortunately many of us in the public' fueled the fire. The book's title 'It's not about the truth' were the words spoken to coach Pressler by the Duke athletic director. Duke administration and many of the professors were spineless idiots who deserve to have their own reputations and careers ruined, as did Nifong. BUY THIS BOOK. A fascinating and riveting read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 14, 2007
Rush to judgement is a key issue in society today. Until I read It's Not About the Truth, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Duke Lacrosse case. Boy was I WRONG!! For the complete, definative account of what really happened you need to pick up a copy of this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 10, 2009
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Posted February 3, 2009
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Posted January 20, 2011
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Posted June 12, 2009
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